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Spiritual Guidance: How to critique a priest without making them cry

Matt Low

Every week (usually), Spiritual Guidance will offer practical insight for priests of the holy profession. Your host is Matt Low, the grand poobah of World of Matticus and a founder of No Stock UI, a UI and addons blog for WoW.

Once in a while, I'll get a question in the mail from a reader that goes something like this:
Dear Matt,

There's a priest who has recently joined our guild. I'm not sure if he's doing the right things. His HPS doesn't seem to be where our other healers are at. His overhealing seems to be a little bit high. I'm not sure if I'm reading it right and I was hoping you could tell me how you evaluate the priests (or healers) that are in your guild. Am I supposed to be using numbers as a solid way to see how good they are?

Dazed from healing
In this week's Spiritual Guidance, I'll walk you through how I evaluate priests who join my guild. I'll go over the best times to get impressions, what I look for specifically, and how I deliver the necessary feedback. We'll go all the way from application through to raid insertion.

Let's start from the top. We open up our hypothetical guild page only to discover that a holy priest has applied to the guild!

The screening process

We're going to use the example of a holy priest named Dazzlehoff (and note I just made that name up so everything beyond that is a sheer coincidence). Dazzlehoff is ready to raid and he's submitted a formal guild application. As the GM, I noted that he's actually copied and pasted the application successfully (an important first step). His answers are sound. The addons he uses happen to be the same as the ones the guild requests. He understands that he's not going to get an immediate raid spot and that he's willing to work towards one.

A quick glance on the armory illustrates that Dazzlehoff has mixed gear. It ranges from Conquest badge level gear to Triumph badge level gear. Mentally, I calculate that he should be capable of holding his own in Trial of the Crusader 10 or 25. I immediately strike him from the roster for Trial of the Grand Crusader (hard mode). Hard mode is hard and I need to bring in the best geared players who I trust can do what I need them to do. Dazzlehoff has not yet earned that right. His initiation path is going to revolve around filling in for regulars as needed and participating in alt runs.

All of his gear is augmented for a priest of his level. He's got a healthy mix of spellpower and intellect gems. His gear is enchanted to the max. Already, he's shown that he's willing to invest the time and money into his character with the limited resources he has.

All of that meets the minimum requirement.

The evaluation process

Unfortunately for Dazzlehoff, he was accepted into the guild on a probationary basis during a week where ToC 25 had already been cleared out. But there is hope for our young healer-to-be. Every Sunday, the guild holds an alt run for extra Crusader Orbs and any main characters that happened to miss out on a raid earlier in the week. The best environment to check out initiates is in the raid. What did I recruit them for? I recruited them for raiding. Running heroics isn't exactly going to give me a lot of information on how they'll react under pressure. If they're supposed to raid, stick them in a raid environment. They'll either sink or swim.

In most cases, it's difficult for me to check out a healer in action. I'm a healer and I have responsibilities of my own. The best I would be able to do on main raids is give myself a fairly easy assignment and stay near the healer I want to observe. I'd keep them focused so I can see their targets and their casts. The intent here is to build up some idea of what they do and how they respond. Observing other healers while healing is difficult to do when working through heroic raids.

Seeing as we have a run for alts, there is nothing wrong with squeezing him in there to heal. It adds a bit of extra strain since some players may not be as intimately familiar with their alts as they are with their mains. More attention will need to be paid because some players might be prone to making mistakes on their alt.

Thankfully, I have a retribution paladin as an alt. I can simply faceroll my way through most of the bosses. More importantly, I can swivel my camera to them directly and pay increased attention to what they do. Having a DPS alt lets me loosen up a bit to the point where I can feel comfortable checking out a player without having to worry about keeping the raid alive as a healer.

What am I specifically looking for?

  • Spell usage: Are they using the right spells at the right time?
  • Awareness: How fast were they able to hustle a Snobold through to melee? How quick did they get out of the fire?
  • Discipline: Are they keeping the assigned player(s) alive like they were instructed to?
  • Independent thought: Can they think on their feet or do they have to be "hand held" throughout an entire boss fight with someone repeatedly telling them what they have to do? Can they run when being pursued? As an example, did they Psychic Scream defensively on Faction Champs?
This tends to be an ongoing process and it is going to require multiple raids to build up a healer profile.

In any case, we manage to clear out ToC 25 on our alts. Granted, it was a shaky run but we managed to get the whole place down nonetheless. Now we get to publicly dissect Dazzlehoffs performance. We're going to look at all the mistakes he made and figure out what he needs to do to get better. Whether you do it in public or private is up to you. There's good and bad sides to both (but that's currently beyond the scope of this post). If there's no major problems, tell him he did a good job and that he didn't do anything majorly wrong.

But in this case, Dazzlehoff made a few key mistakes.

On Northrend Beasts, he managed to get himself trampled by Icehowl.
On Lord Jaraxxus, he fell to a Legion Flame.
On Faction Champions, he was taken down by a Warrior.
On Twins, his assigned tank died.
On Anub'Arak, his healing exceed that of every other healer during the final 30%.

What this initially tells me is that he's either nervous or he's not as familiar with the fights. Maybe he's only done the first few bosses and hasn't really had a lot of time in here yet. Either way, what I do know is that Dazzlehoff is definitely not ready for Trial of the Grand Crusader. He needs to spend more time and get some more seasoning in.

How I tell him

It's just the first raid and I'm generally lenient to players after they make their first mistake on certain fight abilities. If players screw up, that's okay. Something I like to tell my raiders is to never make the same mistake twice.

First, what I'll do is outline exactly what happened. Combat logs show events in the last few seconds before a player gets taken down. I'm not going to call Dazzlehoff a failure but I will tell him honestly that he needs more practice and that he needs to get better because he made some key mistakes.

As an example, I would say Dazzlehoff got trampled by Icehowl. He can't allow that to happen. The best way to prevent that is to position himself in such a way where he won't be blocked by wooden posts or doorways. Minimize obstacles. His situational awareness would have to improve because I saw him run right into Icehowl's path. I would use Lord Jaraxxus as an example where he got tunnel visioned. He's a healer and he should be capable of healing himself while running with a Legion Flame debuff active. If he can't, then he's not geared enough or skilled enough to do so.

On Twins, I would tell him the tank death wasn't his fault. The tank just happened to eat 6 of the opposite colored orbs in a 1 second span. I'd tell him that while it wasn't a requirement, a standout healer would be able to notice 6 dark orbs gliding in their tank and immediately unload their cooldowns, shields, and heals to try to sustain them through that damage.

Now at this point, it's up to Dazzlehoff to decide what to do. He can continue to stay in the guild and take the suggestions to heart. The process starts again next week and the week after that.

Remember that not everyone is going to react favorably or positively to the feedback you're giving them. If they simply can't accept your comments or if they show no signs of improvement, it's best to cut your losses and move on. Not every applicant is going to pan out.

You can only show healers the door. It's up to them to walk through it.

Want to find more great tips for carrying out your Priestly duties? Spiritual Guidance has you covered with all there is to know! And don't forget to check out our other Leveling Guides as well as our Wrath Guides and Galleries!

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